The Dichotomy of Joy

I’m getting married this year. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with my best friend.

But… I’m sad. My dad will not be there to walk me down the aisle.

I don’t really hide the fact that I don’t have a dad – although what I don’t often amend is, “anymore”. Everyone has a father, obviously. But I did at one point have somebody to call ‘daddy’ – he just… died. And I’ve found, so many times since that event, that many of the supposedly happy times of my life are often a bitter pill, a weird combination of dark thoughts and bright joy.

He wasn’t there to see me graduate, with a first class honours degree.

He wasn’t there to celebrate my 21st, or 18th, or 16th “milestone” birthdays. He won’t be there for 30, or 40, or any after that.

He wasn’t there when I drove off, unsupervised, for the first time.

He wasn’t there when I had my heart broken for the first time – and he won’t ever meet the man that pieced it (unwittingly) back together, and who holds it with him now.

All of these big moments of my life are largely very happy ones (even the heartbreak, in retrospect) – and yet each one has an undercurrent, a layer or vein, of something else. Of crushing sadness that sometimes just leaves me so sad, I am empty: I am unable to contain the emotion, so monumental is the feeling of loss. The endless “might-have-beens” and quiet moments we might have shared, the screaming rows we would of had in my teens and the silliness of family life.

I’ve learnt, over the years, to let the sadness crest over me, in beating, terrible waves. To accept it and cry, if I need to.
Sometimes, I can do nothing but try to get through wracking sobs that leave me unable to even draw breath.

Other times, I can just breathe slowly, but not speak. Not concentrate on anything else, other than what once was, on what was.

During these times, I make myself (after many years practice) remember who is present. I do not believe in God, but I practice being mindful, and grateful. I remember be thankful for my beautiful mother, my crazy brother, my step father, and my fiancé. For my friends and even the annoying man at the gym I don’t like.

But, it’s still there. I can follow that thread in every day of my life, to be honest. It never parts from the tapestry that is my soul, but it grows so exponentially at times when I’m supposed to be so very happy, so full of light and joy it’s supposed to shine out. A constant dull veneer.

When I think about my wedding day, I am so happy that I get to have not one, but two men stand by me and walk me down the aisle – in part because if my legs giveaway then they can carry me. And then I am so, so devastated that I won’t have that moment with my dad. That last moment of being under the family name, his name. That first look in so many other wedding photos of the father of the bride meeting the bride. It’s a crushing feeling, knowing he will never meet any children I may have. He will never have that awkward moment with the love of my life when they might have met for the first time. Occasionally, that devastation turns to anger.

I just think… isn’t it funny? That I can be so happy and so sad at the same time. But, I also know, I’m not the only one. A lot of people feel the same about events and losses in their own lives and can’t, don’t, or won’t speak about it. So, I’m speaking about it here and staking my claim on it being ‘okay’ to be sad when I’m supposed to be nothing but happy.

I think, in the words of Forrest Gump… that’s all I have to say about that, and feel free to share your own thoughts below.

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